Memorial week escapes one day drive away

Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)
Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)

Memorial Day signals summer even if just for the long weekend or for a whole week if school is already out. But that vacation should be in the planning stage now to get the accommodations and restaurants wanted. (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

With gas prices looking more and more like highway robbery a one-day drive there may better budget cents.  (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

Here are three destinations, each within a different state, that are an easy day’s drive from Chicago. They all have historic roots. First is a Wisconsin peninsula that is basically an island with several small villages. Second is a Michigan town paired with two good neighbors. Third is a historic Illinois town near the Mississippi River.

Door County, WI

A finger separating the calmer waters of Green Bay from the often more turbulent waves of Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin peninsula home to Door County draws vacationers looking for relaxing seascapes, fine art and pottery galleries, delicious food, trails to bike and hike and lighthouses.

Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Phot by Jodie Jacobs
Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Although The Door, as it is often called, begins halfway up the peninsula south of Brussels for drivers taking Hwy 57, the tourist destination starts further north across a bridge at Sturgeon Bay that is about a four-hour, fifteen-minute drive from Chicago.

Stop before crossing the bridge to get a map, dining and gallery brochures and expert information at the Visitor Center, 1015 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay.

Best plan is to make accommodation reservations before leaving home. Destination Door County/Stay lists inns, B and Bs, cabins, guest houses, motels, resorts and condos.

You might want a place near the center of The Door in Ephraim such as the Eagle Harbor Inn or a place with water views such as Harbor House in Fish Creek or the Yacht Club in Sister Bay or a place known for its good breakfast such as the Church Hill Inn.

Settle in, check the map you now have to see all the towns and crossroads from bay side to lake side and figure what kind of food you want that first night, casual, pizza, fine dining or one of The Door’s noted “fish boil.” experience.

More than one restaurant does an excellent fish boil. The historic White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is among the most popular. Fish boils are fun to watch but you have to like white fish to eat the dish and not worry about bones (for most of them).

When in the mood for home-made root beer, a hamburger and a picture-worthy sundae, stop at historic Wilson’s, a local ice cream parlor in Ephraim.

Door County is fruit country, particularly cherries, so be sure to pick up a cherry pie, chocolate covered cherries and a selection of preserves while there or before you leave. Couple of suggestions: Schartner’s Farm Market on Hwy42 south of Egg Harbor and Seaquist Orchards, north on Hwy 42 past Sister Bay have yummy products.

Other items to bring back are a painting and pottery. Door County is home to several artists and artisans. Also, indulge your inner artist at Hands On Art Studio on Peninsula Players Road in Fish Creek. A complex of small buildings, Hands On has the tools, materials and experts to help with ceramics or create a glass, clay, mosaic or jewelry item.

Or stop in any way to see what is there and then go up Peninsula Players Road to Edgewood Orchard Galleries to walk its sculpture trail.

BTW, bringing back food and art is part of a driving trip vacation.

 

Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J jacobs photo)
Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J Jacobs photo)

Saugatuck/Douglas MI

At about 139 miles from Chicago, Saugatuck, its twin town of Douglas and neighboring town of Fennville are an easy two-hour, 14-minute drive north on Interstate 196.

Saugatuck is on the north side of the Kalamazoo River with Douglas across the way on the river’s south side.. Fenville is south and slightly east of Douglas. They all have attractive stops when on a driving trip to what is known as Michigan’s Art Coast.

Gallery hopping is as much an attraction and pursuit as climbing the area’s dunes and dune riding. A popular art stop is the J. Petter Galleries on the Blue coast Hwy in Douglas just before crossing the bridge and turning into Saugatuck.

Artists have been coming here for at least 100 years when the Art Institute of Chicago opened Ox-Bow School. The school still has workshops and classes and the Art Barn in Fennville has drop-in times for anyone interested in creating something.

Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)
Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)

Inns and B and B’s on the lake, across from the river and near downtown  Saugatuck offer comfortable rooms, friendly hosts and in many cases, breakfasts.

Walk along the river in Saugatuck but for something different take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the river then climb Mt. Baldy dune’s 302 steps for great views of the surrounding area.

For a back-in-time break stop in the Saugatuck Drug Store & Soda Fountain for a root beer float.

When not checking out the shops downtown Saugatuck, fit in a visit to the Saugatuck Brewery and browse the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion, both on the Blue Star Hwy in Douglas.

Slightly further out in Fennville take refreshing breaks at the Fenn Valley Vineyards and Virtue Cider, both a few minutes away in Fennville.

Both have products you take home to enjoy while looking over and emailing photos of the Saugatuck area.

 

Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)
Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena, IL

Galena, IL a 19th century former lead mining town and once popular 1850s  political stop for both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the town rises on hills above the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois.

The area’s fall color is enough to make Galena a seasonal destination but many vacationers come in winter to ski or summer for fun shopping in a historic town. About 800 buildings, comprising 85 percent of the downtown and surrounding area, make up a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Among them is the home of Ulysses S. Grant where he was living when he heard he was elected the 18th President of the United States, and the Desota House Hotel where Lincoln spoke in 1856 for John Fremont’s bid for the presidency.

Along with Desota House, there are several B and B’s. If looking for luxury consider the Select Registry inns of Goldmoor and Jail Hill  (really). For hiking, biking, golf and spa look just outside of Galena’s downtown at Eagle Ridge.

After checking in or dropping off overnight bags, start the visit at the Galena Country Visitor Center. Located in a former train depot near the Grant house, it is on the south side of the Galena River across old rail tracks at 101 Bouthiller St.

Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)
Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)

Ask for a map of the downtown and area and get ready to shop and explore..\

Galena has lots of restaurants but the one that needs a reservation more than others is Fried Green Tomatoes. So, make you dining reservation before you arrive in town.

Vising Galena is about walking tits historic downtown and popping into clever, yummy and interesting shops such as Kandy Kitchen, Chocolat ,  Bread & Vine, a patisserie with good macarons, desserts and yummy sandwiches and American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the shop many folks crowd into first.

But don’t forget to cross the street and head up towards the highway and beginning of the shopping area for a true treasure store called Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn .  Indulge in your inner farmyard, antique shopping persona. After all, driving here means room in the car for collectibles.

One more tip: check the department of transportation website whichever state and trip you choose to find out about construction.

Happy and safe travels!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Movie backdrops fill Boca Raton Museum

 

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Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)
Singing in the Rain backdrop scene. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Musuem)

Imagine taking a selfie against the scenery in “American in Paris,” Singing in the Rain,” “North by Northwest” or “Sound of Music.”

The Boca Raton Museum of Art is making these movie moments possible with its new exhibit, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop.

Second in a travel series that makes art destinations the reason to go, the Boca Raton exhibit is an amazing, immersive experience.

Opening April 20, 2022 and continuing through Jan. 23, 2023, Art of the Hollywood Backdrop brings 22 large-scale scenic backdrops made for the movies between 1938 and 1967 to South Florida so what has pretty-much become a lost art can be enjoyed and their artists, appreciated.

After attempting a selfie, visitors will see and understand that backdrops were created for the camera view of a scene.

To achieve an immersive ambiance that recaptures the classic scenes for the show, interactive videos have been done by digital designers and sound engineers. (Watch two videos at youtu.be/8Z1bi3P1Luc and  youtu.be/qvVc2i4euQY.

At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)
At the Boca Raton Museum, Karen L. Maness works on repairing the scenic backdrop from the 1959 MGM film North by Northwest. (Photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Museum)

The exhibit is co-curated by two people who were instrumental in salvaging the backdrops from the studios: Assistant Professor of (Art) Practice at the University of Texas at Austin Karen L. Maness who co-author The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop and is Director of the Texas Performing Arts Hollywood Backdrop Collection and multi-award winning  production designer Thomas A. Walsh.

The backstory is that Lynne Coakley, head of J.C. Backings Corporation picked up more than 2,000 backdrops from MGM storage in the 1970s. Coakley then partnered on backdrop protection and education with the Art Directors Guild Archives in 2012 directed by Walsh, then the Guild’s president.

“This show is about the joy of re-living something you grew up with, that you always thought was real. It’s about getting as close to that magical moment in time as you can,” said Walsh in a statement about the show.

He thought visitors will be astonished by the backdrops’ sizes.  “Being in the same space with that giant, familiar scene. It is difficult for people to get their minds around the awesome size of these magical spaces, until they see them in person. People are often shocked and surprised by the scale and visual impact of these massive creations,” he said.

American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)
American in Paris backdrop. (Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Art Musuem)

With the aim of preserving the backdrops and making them available for study, Coakley and Walsh launched the Backdrop Recovery Project partnership with J.C. Backings.  A major recipient was the University of Texas’ art department and Maness. About 20 of the backdrops in the exhibit are from the UT collection.

Referring to the North by Northwest backdrop, Maness said, “This is the grandaddy, the Babe Ruth of all Hollywood backdrops…Especially because it was such a key player in the telling of this story.”

According to Maness, just as important as the stories the backdrops tell, is that the exhibit honors the artists who created them. Visitors will be able to see their brush strokes. “This has become my passion project, to tell their stories. I will be their champion in this lifetime” she said.

Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)
Warner Brothers scenic artists (ca. 1930). (L-to- R) Verne Strang, Bill McConnell, Frankie Cohen, Charley Wallace, Jack Brooks, James McCann, Emmett Alexander (Ed Strang Collection, from the book The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, by Karen L. Maness and Richard Isackes. (IPhoto courtesy of Maness)

Maness who had conducted extensive interviews with the last surviving artists and their families, said in a statement about the exhibit’s importance, “It was essential to capture these artist’s stories before they disappeared.”

In addition to the UT backdrops, “Singin’ in the Rain” and the 1938 tapestry backdrop for “Marie Antoinette” are loaned by the Motion Picture Academy in Los Angeles.

The exhibit will have an educational component and presentations. For more information visit at bocamuseum.org/visit/events.

Art Preserve is short travel trip or part of a larger getaway

New Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. ( J Jacobs photo)
New Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. ( J Jacobs photo)

Instead of merely zooming (the old-fashioned sense of the word) in on your fall destination, check out places along the way to stop that you might not get to in a separate trip.

A surprising thing happened as we planned a Door County getaway for October.

Looking at the map ((we use GPS and paper maps) we realized we could break the drive up from Chicago into two destinations with a short stopover in Sheboygan. We know and have been to the American Club in Kohler, but why Sheboygan?

The John Michael Kohler Art Center downtown Sheboygan on New York Avenue has opened an exceptional branch called the Art Preserve over on Lower Falls Road that celebrates intuitive Wisconsin artists. Not only is the building artistic, its contents include large and sometimes full collections from each artist.

P:aintings, jewelry, sculptures and, ceramics are among art collections at the Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. (J Jacobs photo)
P:aintings, jewelry, sculptures and, ceramics are among art collections at the Kohler Art Preserve in Sheboygan, WI. (J Jacobs photo)

I had seen good intuitive exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum so hearing what the Art Preserve would have and that it would open in July I was excited about stopping there on our way to Door County for a fall color trip.

The art work is remarkable!

Fantastical animal sculptures. (J Jacobs photo)

The Art Preserve may seem small on the outside but that is an illusion. The art fills three floors.

Visitors wander around well-placed sculptures and home-made structures that have been taken down and moved there. They then move on to startling paintings on dividers and top notch (I want one) ceramics on tables and in cases. There are also artists’ amazing renderings of animals and people.

Some artists' houses and rooms ar included in the Art Preserve. (A Jacobs photo)
Some artists’ houses and rooms ar included in the Art Preserve. (A Jacobs photo)

To stay within COVID protocols visitors should register their anticipated arrival time before leaving home. Once there, take all the time you want but allow for two hours.

If familiar with the parent museum you probably guessed the bathrooms are tiled with art (yes people go into each).

Bathroom tile (A Jacobs photo)
Bathroom tile (A Jacobs photo)

A good place for lunch is the Café over at the Kohler Art Center where you order at a small counter and the food is brought to your table. My husband and I each had a superb salad.

We spent the day in Sheboygan but it only is about three hours from our destination in Door County so it could have fit into the morning.

However, the Art Preserve is worth a return trip.

The Art P:reserve is at 3636 Lower Falls Road, Sheboygan, WI. find more information at Kohler Art Preserve. The JM Kohler Art Center is at 608 New York Ave., Sheboygan, WI.

Go to van Gogh

Immersive Van Gogh Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

Put Chicago on the go-to list to experience Immersive Van Gogh.

Yes, the artist is supposed to be spelled Vincent van Gogh with a lower case v but the exhibit doesn’t worry about Van vs van.

After impressing Parisians and folks in Toronto, the exhibit is now the hot ticket in Chicago where it already sold out through March.

Immersive Van Gogh is about color, movement and mood. It is presented in a way so the public will appreciate an artist who died broke and was not valued in his lifetime.

Visitors will hear Mussorgsky’s “Pictures From an Exhibtion.” But they shouldn’t expect to see “Sunflowers,” “The Bedroom in Arles,” “Starry Night” or any self-portrait hung on a wall in its museum frame.

Housed in the Germania Club Building, a just redone landmark at 108 Germania Place on Chicago’s near north side, Immersive Van Gogh totally surrounds visitors with the artist’s famed works.

Immersive Van Gogh Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

As scenes change, so does accompanying music ranging from Edith Piaf singing “Non, Je ne regrette rien” (I regret nothing)  and choral works to Mussorgsky and a Handel cello suite.

A multi-story, 350 degree art experience, Immersive Van Gogh is in a building  refitted by Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago for it and future exhibitions.

Ticket prices start at $39.99 for adults, $24.99 for children 16 or younger. For more information about Immersive Van Gogh visit vangoghchicago.com or call 844-307-4644.

A Wisconsin fall getaway

 

Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)
Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)

Picture a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam in a county where visitors to its scenic towns often gather around huge outdoor pots to watch traditional fish boils.

It is Door County, a peninsula that separates the calm waters of Green Bay from turbulent waves of Lake Michigan and where the must-take-home items are chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies and the must-visit time of year is fall.

An easy drive from Green Bay’s airport, the route on the way to the Sturgeon Bay, the first vacation town on the peninsula, is dotted with the crimsons, golds and pinksm of changing leaves. And, as TV ads say, “But wait.” The colors keep intensifying, driving northwest along curving roads through picturesque villages.

Continue reading “A Wisconsin fall getaway”